100% ‘Clean Energy’ by 2040 Passes Senate
October 31, 2023
Electric companies need to run 100% on “clean energy” – which includes nuclear power and methane digesters controlling organic waste decomposition – by 2040 under an expansive energy reform package driven by Senate Democrats.
All four bills – altogether dealing with clean energy goalposts, potential labor needs, and job training and utility reviews – methodically passed Thursday evening on party-line 20-18 votes after numerous Republican amendments all failed on the same party-line votes.
Outside of setting the 2040 deadline, SB 271 by Sen. Erika Geiss (D-Taylor), requires electric companies regulated by the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) to depend 50% on renewable energy – such as wind, solar and geothermal power, as well as hydropower – from 2030 to 2034.
In 2035, the renewable energy credit portfolio must make up 60% of a utility’s energy sources.
Meanwhile, the 100% “clean energy” portfolio expected by 2040 could consist of any of the renewable energy sources, and new and existing gas plants using technology with a carbon capture and storage (CCS) rate of 90%. Nuclear and biomass energy can also be incorporated into the portfolio under the bills.
“All the scientific evidence that we must do something now, that we must embark on these changes now, is before us. This legislation marks the beginning of taking bold action to address this urgent crisis, one that is a clear and present danger, and failure to tackle it meaningfully cannot be an option,” Geiss said. “This isn’t just about the business community or about utilities – this is about our planet that we live on together.”
Sen. John Damoose (R-Harbor Springs) offered an unsuccessful amendment to halt the legislation’s clean energy goals if energy rates exceed the rate of inflation. His point was that the legislation makes a lot of lofty promises, “but the only thing Michigan residents can be sure of is that they will deliver higher rates.”
Sen. Joseph Bellino JR. (R-Monroe) attempted to tie-bar SB 271with his own legislation, SB 10, which preempts local governments from implementing bans or penalties against natural gas use or the installation of natural gas infrastructure.
Furthermore, Sen. Jonathan Lindsey (R-Brooklyn) made the case that the legislation should be linked to eliminating the 1% cap on rooftop solar installations, restricting how many panels an individual can install and have connected to the energy grid. His effort by the same 18-20 vote.
“Again, we’re about to vote on significant legislation rushed through this chamber at lightning speed,” said Sen. Dan Lauwers (R-Brockway), the minority vice chair of the Senate Energy and Environment Committee. “Michigan residents need and deserve reliable and affordable energy, but that’s not what they’re gonna get here today. Instead, Democrats have unapologetically put forward a plan to drive up costs and make our energy grid even less reliable.”
Lauwers added that “capital is a coward,” with businesses that can benefit and contribute to Michigan’s economy running away from risks. He illustrated how the legislative package could create uncertainty for manufacturing in the state, and push manufacturers to relocate to states with less burdensome energy mandates.
“This is no way to grow our population,” he said.
The other three energy bills that passed Thursday include:
SB 502 – SB 502 requires the MPSC to consider environmental justice, human health impacts, greenhouse gas reduction and sulfur oxide emissions when approving a utility company’s proposed five-year Integrated Resources Plan.
Sen. Sue Shink (D-Ann Arbor)’s bill also charges the MPSC with verifying that workers are receiving prevailing wage and fringe benefits for a utility’s latest projects.
If an energy utility serving at least 100,000 residential customers files for a cost recovery proceeding, it must pay $2 million – $1.8 million if not all of its customers are residential – to the Utility Consumer Representation Fund to finance administrative and judicial proceedings. These are increases from the current $650,000 and $900,000 fees.
SB 273 – SB 273 sets a goal for Michigan’s electric providers that their energy waste reduction programs save the equivalent of 2% of their retail electricity sales from the previous year. Starting in 2026, the current 1% savings that is mandated in law will go up to 1.5%, with the aforementioned 2% being an incentivized goal.
“This is now an opportunity for us to help our citizens across the state save dollars and resources. I’m also proud that we now have been working with our co-ops, as well as our municipal entities, and now every citizen will have access to energy efficiency opportunities,” said Sen. Sam Singh (D-East Lansing) on his SB 273.
He added that under the legislation, at least 25% of an electric provider’s total energy waste reduction program spending must be dedicated to low-income communities.
For natural gas providers, at least 35% of their total energy waste reduction program spending must be appropriated to low-income communities, and beginning in 2026, their incremental energy savings must be worth .875% of overall retail natural gas sales from the prior year.
SB 519 – SB 519 creates a transition program that could offer supplemental income, health care benefits, retirement benefits and educational opportunities for residents who lose their jobs in the fossil fuel industry due to the transition to renewable energy.
The “Community and Worker Economic Transition Office” within Michigan’s Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity would be charged with helping communities and running the aforementioned program.
The new government arm would develop a transition plan that addresses the local impacts of a coal power station closing or how auto workers can best adapt to the evolving electric vehicle movement – and submit it to the Legislature and the Governor by the end of 2025.
It will additionally be responsible for lining up federal, state and local resources that can assist as electrification and renewable energy sources, like solar power and natural gas plants utilizing carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, grow in prominence.
“The reality is that more than a dozen countries around the world, including the population of most industrialized nations, have already determined that they will be phasing out internal combustion engine vehicles within the next few years,” said Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak) during floor debate on the legislation. “If we do not position our state, our workers and our signature industry to respond to this transition that we’re living in, we will get left behind.”
Speaking on the overall package, Singh explained how the legislation offers “off ramps,” overseen by the public service commission, for utility providers who face issues with cost and reliability. However, he did say these periods where the legislation’s deadlines won’t apply are intended to be temporary.
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Aric Nesbitt (R-Lawton) and House Minority Leader Matt Hall (R-Kalamazoo) spoke to members of the media after Thursday’s session, where they admitted to viewing the legislation as an ultimate ban on natural gas. Although the legislation’s language permits the use of natural gas with CCS technology being utilized, Nesbitt indicated that no methods have been set up to see carbon capture and sequestration be taken advantage of in Michigan.
“It’s a talking point at the end of the day. They don’t set up the process to actually do it and allow it here in the end,” Nesbitt said. “Even with all this acceptance of what’s there, the same environmental groups are going to be coming in and opposing anything on carbon capture and sequestration, because there’s a whole goal of just banning natural gas at the end of the day.”
Hall predicts that GOP representatives will be needed to pass the package in the end, “but you’re not going to ban natural gas and get our support.”
Article courtesy MIRS News for SBAM’s Lansing Watchdog newsletter